Say that word to kids and watch their eyes light up. Mine still do! I’ve had a fascination with robots since 1977 when I decided in the first five minutes of Star Wars that I wanted my own R2 unit. Now my workshop is full of them, and I’m even getting to teach a camp this summer for 20 lucky kids who are going to learn to build, program, and take home their own robot. My camp does have an age limit, however — we’ll be using breadboards, lots of small electronics components, and some coding will be necessary. I have an almost-7 year old son who is a bit upset that he can’t take the class, but I’ve got some other ideas in store for him this summer, and one of those includes reading through the latest book in the Nick and Tesla series from “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steven Hockensmith.
This new story, Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage, has three key words in the title — Robot, Army, and Rampage. That should most definitely give you an idea about the book’s content. Once again, twins Nick and Tesla have found themselves a mystery to occupy their time as they stay with their eccentric inventor Uncle Newt. As the story progresses, readers are provided a handful of hands-on projects to build and play with that mirror items built by the twins to push the story along. Of course, these projects are robot-oriented, but you don’t need to be concerned about owning a soldering iron or wiring up a string of capacitors and ICs. Instead, these robot projects are much easier to put together and definitely less technical.
There are five projects in this book:
DIY PC Leftovers Wander-Bot — using a cooling fan from a PC, a glue gun, some coat hanger snippets for legs, a quarter, and a few other items you should have around the house, your young reader can put together a robot that shakes and vibrates its way across any smooth surface.
DIY Semi-Invisible Bottle Bot — 2 AAA batteries, a small cheap motor (easily obtained from Radio Shack), a two-liter bottle, and other supplies, build another small “walking” robot.
Homemade Robo-Bug — similar to a BrushBot (or BristleBot), the bristly end of a toothbrush combined with a tiny motor and batteries allows your young tinkerer to build the smallest wandering bot around, complete with light-up LED eyes.
Replacement Robo-Angel Hoverbot — this little hovering robot is made from foam plates and a motor and hand-made fan that provides the push to lift this little fellow off a flat surface.
Totally Improvised Super-Soaker Bot Blaster — while not a robot, this is one project that kids are sure to love — making your own water-soaking blaster from inexpensive PVC, perfect for short circuiting any attacking robot army that comes your way.
This set of books is off to a great start! The two authors along with illustrator, Scott Garrett, have created a fun way to encourage reading and hands-on activities. The artwork is funny, but it’s the story that is the key here — Nick and Tesla are always getting into trouble or finding obstacles that they must overcome. They find what’s available to them in terms of supplies and then attack the problem. Young readers will hopefully be inspired by the encouragement provided by the two young heroes.
Although readers aren’t required to have read the first book in the series, Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab, I do recommend that young readers try and read a copy of it anyway… it will help better explain the twins’ situation and the very odd Uncle Newt. You can read my review of Book 1 here.
Readers who want more can visit the NickandTesla.com website for more gadgets, videos, interviews with the authors, and even share their own photos of their own creations.
And readers won’t have to wait too long for the next adventure — Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle is due out in May 2014!
Note: I’d like to thank Nicole with Quirk Books for providing a review copy of Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage.